Grain growers call for launch of premium brand for Irish cereals
A new logo for food, drink and animal feed producers that use only Irish cereals is being sought by the Irish Grain Growers group (IGG).
Pointing out that more than 7 million tonnes of cereals were imported into Ireland last year for food and feed production, the IGG maintained that there was an opportunity to develop a premium brand for Irish grain.
"Currently there are no standards in place that require users of grain for malt, distilling or food production to prove they do in fact use 100pc Irish grain," the IGG stated.
The growers' group maintained that "many companies" claimed for "marketing purposes" that their grain was "locally sourced and Irish", but IGG pointed out that these assertions cannot be verified.
"We need a scheme that identifies the actual tonnage of Irish grain used, removes false claims of 100pc Irish, and pays a bonus to Irish-grown grain which would support the industry into the future," a spokesman said.
"IGG is suggesting that companies that use only Irish grain have a logo stating that they use 100pc Irish grain.
"The use of this logo would be based on an inspection regime from possibly Bord Bia which would clearly identify the source of the grain as Irish-grown.
"Currently companies can mix their Irish grain products with imports and still claim its Irish as there are no systems in place to differentiate between Irish and imported grain."
IGG insisted that in order to encourage the continuation of a vibrant grain industry in Ireland, a premium has to be put on Irish-grown grain.
"IGG believe a bonus payment system should be part of a new 100pc Irish grain scheme," the IGG spokesman said.
"Growers are fully transparent with regards to traceability and now it's time for industry to complete the loop.
"We see this as a win-win for all stakeholders involved as the consumer is now more than ever conscious of food traceability, food miles and carbon footprint."
The level of imports for animal feed spiked last year due to the summer drought and grass shortages, with some industry estimates putting the total volume purchased at close to 4 million tonnes. This was up from 2.8 million tonnes in 2017.
More than 100,000 tonnes of local barley from last year's harvest is likely to remain in store this autumn due to the import of cheaper maize.
This has fuelled demands for the increased use of local grain in compound feed rations. The high level of usage of imported malting barley and maize by Irish whiskey distillers has also attracted much grower criticism.
However, the IGG insisted that local tillage farmers can produce more than feed for livestock and grain for brewing and distilling.
"There is a myriad of options that need exploring, like using barley to make healthier bread, or oat milk for your trendy cafés," the spokesman said.
"Even producing green gas and electricity by growing crops to supply to anaerobic digestion plants."
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